People often ask me, do all your couples stay together?
The real answer, no. They don’t.
If you asked me the percentage of couples that stay versus the ones that don’t, the ones that stay together are definitely much higher - but not all couples that go to couple’s therapy make it work and end up in a happily ever after story.
Couple counselling isn’t an instant cure or a quick solution to having a healthy relationship. The fact that couples often wait to the end to come see me, really gives me little to work with; however, I am determined to work on making sense of the relationship - whether it’s about them together or not.
Couples that are at the end, often don’t make it - but that doesn’t mean they can’t, it just means there is a lot more work involved for everyone including the therapist.
Part of my work with couples is to make sense of them as individuals. I pay attention to their patterns, behaviours and how they interact with me as well as their partner. There is even so much said in the silence and the body language. As their therapist, I begin to make sense of them as an individual with different needs and understanding of being loved and how they show and give love. Then I am better equipped to unravel the miscommunication, unexpressed needs, disappointments, resentments and the hurt created over the years.
It’s important for me to know why it’s not working before helping couple's make it work.
So, why do some couple’s who seek therapy don’t always make it…
Sometimes the relationship is too far gone. They no longer feel happy and fulfilled and there is too much hurt and pain to move past. They’ve been betrayed, misunderstood or neglected for too long. When that happens, I encourage the individuals to work on their own self care and heal themselves. Whether with their own individual therapy, self reflection, journaling, etc. Sometimes the individual needs to build themselves back up - before they can reconnect back with their partner. Some couples do it along side the couple’s counselling, others separate and some times, very few, but sometimes even after they’ve separated they end up coming back to one another.
Blame. When one or both partners blame each other for being at the potential end, it doesn’t help move it forward. Blame doesn’t serve anyone in therapy. Therapy is about opening up and taking responsibility that both of you need to work on the relationship and make sense of how it got to this stage. It’s about revealing vulnerabilities and be willing to look at yourself and your own behaviour. It’s natural to blame in the beginning, but eventually, the blame has to be set aside so the real work can begin.
Thinking therapy is a quick fix. Therapy isn’t a quick fix. Often couples expect to magically be madly in love again just after a couple of sessions. It doesn’t work that way, it doesn’t mean you’ll need a lifetime of therapy either. But how long it takes for you to reconnect with your partner varies based on the relationship itself. It doesn’t mean that if you’re in therapy for more than six months that it’s never going to be fixed, it just means you’re both working through a lot and want to make it work and anything worth fighting for takes work and commitment.
Not willing to negotiate and make changes. Learning to negotiate with your partner is part of couples therapy. What does that mean? It means being open to your partner’s needs when they don’t necessarily align with your own. Some partners have a hard time with chores because one refuses to do one particular task, by negotiating and finding a compromise, both parties are left happier and more content. Negotiating with your partner is often a tool learned in couple’s therapy.
Not open to listening to your partner. Couple’s therapy is about actively listening to one another and hearing what your partner is saying - truth is, there will be moments that you will feel like this is the first time you’re actually hearing your partner (though they might feel like they are a broken record) or in fact, you’ve heard a lot what is being said over and over before. Stay committed in listening to them - cause if you shut them out during therapy and say “ugh, you’ve said this already” - means you’ve missed the point of what they're sharing. Sometimes it’s not about the “socks” on the floor or always being late.
Saving everything for therapy. Saving all your fights for therapy is a common behaviour couples do when they first begin therapy. Which is normal and part of the process; however, eventually once the relationship has begun to move forward, you’ll have to be in the moment with your partner and deal with a situation on your own. This helps develop your “new” communication style and active listening. Most couples see their progress during a disagreement or fight - which is all part of the process of better understanding themselves and coming together.
Then there are couples that are just not compatible…. and the meaning of compatibility is not measured on a zodiac sign or single interests - but a variety of personality traits and previous experiences. Sometimes no amount of therapy can help. Because in the end, some relationships might not mean “forever”.
Relationships take work, even at their best - so, it’s important to keep working even when things get a little rocky. Seeing couple’s succeed in their relationship is such a rewarding experience for me as a therapist - watching how they interact with each other sessions after their first session and seeing their progress still amazes me to this day. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing couples work for their relationship - after all, isn’t that the point. ***
Reasons to seek couple’s therapy doesn’t always mean your relationship is almost over - some reasons couple’s seek couple's therapy:
Learning to communicate and fight healthy | Parenting stress | Sex & intimacy | Financial issues | Moving in together or getting married | Betrayal & infidelity |